Dear Mr. Engelmann, 6/5/2012
Thank you for being in contact. Your articles and research look interesting: http://merrimack.academia.edu/edengelmann. I might be more on the Platonic or Neoplatonic side of the philosophy discussion. I appreciate your good questions and considerations; please don’t read any tones into my sometimes blunt comments/responses. (my responses to your comments are in blue)
Dear Mr. Jenkins:
I have been looking over some of your work and especially the Galactic Alignment, Chapter 3 (unpublished). In the interests of scholarly communication I have a few comments and questions.
1.) The whole question of whether the Mayan ‘center of the milky way’ coincides with our modern ‘galactic equator’, ‘galactic bulge’, etc. seems to me a red herring and confuses the issue for all concerned. [most of my clarifications are in response to the confusion that astronomers and scholars have projected into the discussions. This seems driven more by an insistent and irrational attempt to denounce and dismiss my work than in trying to understand it. It is indeed a distractive red herring to those who seek to distort a clear presentation and discussion. However, in my responses to the hair-splitting over the spatial locations of these astronomical features, I’ve shown that it is possible to define and address the concerns of critics, and give interpretive priority to the naked-eye observations that the ancient Maya were making.
What we are principally concerned with is what the Mayans thought about what we call the ‘galaxy’, and the significance of the dark rift which we identify with our ‘galactic center’. [ That is correct, and I’ve stated this many times over, and have focused on several points of evidence that show how the ancient Maya thought of the dark rift and nuclear bulge of the Crossroads (of Milky Way and ecliptic) as being a center and source --- concepts true to how modern scientists conceive of the galactic center.] All civilizations have recognized the milky way as special so there is no particular reason to prioritize our understanding as being the equator of a one galaxy amongst many.
2. Focus on this issue seems to give rise to the idea that the Mayans somehow saw into the future and anticipated and (and were interested in) our ‘advanced’ scientific interests. [ I can’t tell if you are suggesting that I subscribe to this notion. If so, I think I’ve been pretty careful in my work to NOT claim that the Maya were “seeing into our future” or were even interested in the kind of science that is currently practiced. On the first point, I’ve argued and put evidence on the table that the Maya had calculated a future alignment within the precession of the equinoxes. This was a decently accurate astronomical practice, which we now know the Maya could do (see Grofe’s work below), on par with what Hipparchus accomplished around the same time, and he was also not using a telescope. This is not “seeing into the future” in the kind of way that such a phrase evokes; that is, Nostradamus-like crystal gazing. My approach has been to present and sometimes reconstruct concepts of astronomy and mythology used by the Maya, which were also integrated into a non-dual paradigm (evident in the Creation Myth) ]
Not only is this ethnocentric, but also sends the whole discussion into pre-rational New Age woo-woo land. Any suggestion of this sends any serious thinker running for cover. [What actually sends the “serious thinker” running from my work is when I use a word like “spirituality” when I’m writing about Maya spirituality. As you might imagine, it’s pretty hard to explore, rationally and intellectually, Maya spirituality without using the word “spirituality” but nevertheless the critical runaways flea from it. This relates to my deep investigation, particularly present in my published book of 2002, Galactic Alignment, (have you seen it?), of the non-dual perennial philosophy and the profound and challenging ideas of perennial philosophers such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, Henry Corbin, Rene Guenon, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, etc. I’ve encouraged critics to differentiate modern New Age ideas from the Perennial Philosophy, usually to no avail. Why? Because nay-saying debunker types in academia, such a John Hoopes, find the New Age label to be useful in denouncing and mitigating my work. It is because they insist on being unsophisticated in their thinking about challenging concepts --- such as non-duality in indigenous paradigms --- that difficulties arise, and rational discussions break down]
3. It is somewhat puzzling why Mayanists (those who specialize in the field) are not interested in the 2012 correlation, but I suspect that when this is mixed up with our own concerns about spirituality, etc. it seems decidedly anachronistic and tendentious. Again, serious scholars run for cover. [ exactly; but in doing so they define themselves as NOT serious scholars, but insincere ones on a personal crusade or with an agenda to protect their guild from unwanted outsiders ]
4. You have a rather disparaging way of talking about
supposed collogues as ‘linear’, ‘one-dimensional’, etc. That might be true to some extent, but
remember they are interested scientifically in the past, not the present and
the future. They have no interest in
connecting Maya, etc. to modern concerns.
And their modern concerns are generally not spiritual in nature, at
least not in any way that connects to questions about ancient (‘unscientific’)
civilizations. [The problem here is a habitual
framework of perception that cannot do justice to the Maya worldview, which is
non-dual in nature. This is a rather central problem in terms of scientists and
scholars who disallow larger non-dual
(or “multidimensional”) paradigms, yet who presume to be the best commentators on those paradigms. So, yes, I disparage this ridiculous situation. It’s sort of like a dog presuming to be an expert on what it is to be a cat. On the other hand, I’ve noted that some scholars use certain clinical concepts that indirectly beat around the bush of non-duality, such as “reciprocity”. But they resist having a full-blown discussion of non-dual cosmovision among the Maya. I’m perfectly capable of cross-mapping terms and understanding parallels in semantic usage, but they aren’t.]
5. You yourself seem to elide between a ‘just the facts’ rhetoric and ‘linkage of Maya to our world-transformational spiritual concerns’ rhetoric. While I am not denying there might be a connection, these must be treated as distinct issues, as it leads to above mentioned problems if they are not. [I think they are inter-related, on a continuum, and are not to be treated artificially as distinct topics. Similarly, we should not separate Maya science (e.g., astronomy) from Maya spirituality. Such an approach is more comfortable for the compartmentalizing specialists of academia, but it will truncate a complete understanding of how, in the very Maya worldview under examination, those two domains are inseparably inter-related. More to your point --- I believe, like Joseph Campbell did of other ancient philosophies, that Maya philosophy partakes of universal ideas (or spiritual teachings) that have meaning for all human beings. It is possible to build upon, and respect, the basic facts, while acknowledging and exploring (with good rational processing) the larger issues, including contemporary cultural and civilizational challenges and how the Maya worldview, and their legitimate insights into human nature and cycles of time, might addresses those. ]
6.On p. 11, you say that they “recognized the true nature of that part of the Milky Way.” This is confusing. True nature for whom? Us or them? Why should the Maya be concerned with our ‘true (i.e. modern scientific) nature’? And why should we be concerned with their true nature, other than on an academic level? You might think the answer to the last question should be obvious, but it is not. [Page 11 is part of the Intro; this topic is expanded upon elsewhere in the book, and also in my book Galactic Alignment (2002). It is basically this: the true nature of the Galactic Center lies in the fact that it is a center. The Maya were interested in celestial centers, upon which they would mirror their cities and central royal precincts. Center: This is not a culturally relative identification. It is a recognition that the Galactic Center region (the nuclear bulge between Sagittarius and Scorpio) is both a center and a source-place. I addressed this succinctly in my letter to Maya scholars and astronomers” of 1999, posted to the Aztlan email list at that time: http://alignment2012.com/openletter.htm (also treated in subsequent books and articles)] As you maintain, most scholars and scientists are not interested in analogical , world-transformational, etc. thinking. So of course they would be baffled and alienated by what they see as an illegitimate juxtaposition. [again, the “true nature” of the GC in my usage is simply that it is a center, and this is demonstrably within Maya concepts and traditions – see link above]
7. From a modern astronomical standpoint, the fact that the ecliptic crosses the milky way is insignificant, anthropocentric. It is just an accident of nature, and has no deeper scientific meaning. [it should be of interest to scientists, from an empirical standpoint, because it is statistically unlikely that the ecliptic should cross over the Milky Way right where the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center is located. This immediately suggests the possibility of some kind of empirical entrainment principle, which should be of concern to astrophysicists. That’s not astrology. An open investigation should proceed, but that’s not my main concern in reconstructing ancient Maya cosmology] Any other interpretation tends towards astrological concerns, which of course are completely rejected by astronomers as at best a category mistake. So astronomers would not be interested in this issue. [they should be interested in it from the vantage point of accurate definition of the crossing-zone of the Milky Way and the ecliptic, and the calculation of the era-2012 solstice alignment with it. From this viewpoint we have a spectrum of responses from astronomers. On the one hand we have David Morrison at NASA and other astronomers who are indeed incapable of treating the galactic alignment as a legitimate astronomical topic, and on the other hand we have astronomers Jean Meeus and Patrick Wallace who offer calculations of the galactic alignment and the ranges we can rationally apply to it, based upon the half-degree-wide size of the sun (a method I first suggested). I’ve sought out and summarized these calculations in my writings, notably my 2002 book Galactic Alignment, material which is NEVER cited by the critics] By the same token, to completely denigrate modern scientific achievements (c.f. Rene Guenon) is misguided and alienates just about everybody with scientific training. [I’ve stated many times that science works perfectly well within the limits of what it does well, and that a larger metaphysics includes science as a legitimate subset. What I denigrate is the assumption of many scientists that they are the supreme arbiters of all reality, and their own confused denigration of philosophical and spiritual viewpoints which embrace larger perspectives. They confusedly conflate and dismiss such positions, which can time and time again be discussed with great rational acumen, as “irrational” or “New Age.” They are neither. This is a breakdown of the high intellectual standards and rational processing that the scientists claim to be the skilled purveyors of. There are endless examples of my discussions with astronomers and scientists that illustrate how difficulties arise even just on the level of their own empirical processing of the astronomy --- forget transcendental metaphysics or non-duality. See, for example, my exchange with astronomer Stephen Tonkin in 2004: http://alignment2012.com/tonkins-error.html]
8. As some have pointed out, they crux of your argument that the 2012 date has any significance for the Mayans, is their knowledge of precession. You seem to say at times that the very fact that the calendar ends in 2012 proves they had this knowledge [no, not “proves”, but it’s a compelling invitation for deeper investigation, which is what I then pursued circa 1991. The “coincidence” of the solstice-galaxy alignment with era-2012 begins the investigation as to likelihood and evidence; I found compelling evidence for the ancient Maya’s knowledge of the galactic alignment targeted to Dec 21, 2012 in a wide range of Maya traditions and at Izapa --- and now on TRT Monument 6], but I also see you have independent evidence. What is the state of the question now amongst Mayan scholars?
I’m glad you asked: As you mentioned, evidence for the Maya being able to calculate precession is an important, and heretofore missing, aspect of my reconstruction work. I have, however, shown how the image-complex of the solstice sun at the Crossroads is front and center in Maya traditions, including the ballgame and the Creation Myth and in the archaeoastronomy of Izapa. That may no obviate the need for identifying Maya methods of calculating precession, but such evidence does require that, somehow, they apparently did. Maya scholar Michael Grofe, in his 2007 PhD dissertation (which can be read at the Maya Exploration Center website) showed that the Maya, in the Dresden Codex, were aware of a precise sidereal year interview and used it over vast periods of time. Knowing the sidereal year (365.25636 days) allows you to place the sun at any chosen sidereal location over large periods of time. This would allow the Maya, for example, to calculate the placement of the sun at the Milky Way / ecliptic Crossroads on a selected future date, such as December 21, 2012. (Notice that, as with my own work, Grofe’s work still does not identify the methodology by which the Maya determined the sidereal year with great accuracy, but given their consistent use of certain Distance Numbers in the inscriptions and codices, in meaningful contexts, they apparently did. Scholars who dismiss these compelling sets of evidence, like Stanley Guenter, are just fools practicing polemics and sophistry because what I’ve pioneered in my work, as an outsider, cannot be allowed.) Tropical Year awareness is known from the Year rift formula, in which 1507 tropical years of 365.2422 days each equals 1508 Haab of 365 days each. This allows for an awareness that the future December 21, 2012 date (188.8.131.52.0 in the Long Count) was a solstice. Grofe subsequently showed additional evidence for Sidereal Year awareness in the Distance Numbers found on inscriptions from early classic and Classic Period Maya stelae at different sites. Such double awareness of sidereal and tropical years is tantamount to being able to calculate precession. Grofe’s 2007 dissertation provided the one piece of the puzzle that I had not found (I argued awareness through the use of the features of the galactic alignment astronomy in the ballgame, Creation Myth, king-making rites, and in the archaeoastronomical orientations and iconography at Izapa). The reaction of the vanguard to Grofe’s findings was predictably misleading and irrationally dismissive. For example, premier 2012 debunker Anthony Aveni, in his 2009 book provocatively titled 2012: End of Days, addressed Grofe’s findings and he 1) misunderstood Grofe’s clearly stated methodology and approach; and 2) he mistakenly assessed the direction of precessional shifting in a backward way and therefore asserted that Grofe’s calculations were inaccurate and unreliable. I immediately noted these problems in Aveni’s assessment of Grofe’s breakthrough work, and published an exposé and correction in my chapter in 2012: Decoding the Countercultural Apocalypse (ed Dr. Joseph Gelfer; intro by Dr. Michael Coe). Grofe bided his time and presented his own correction to Aveni in his Oxford IX Archaeoastronomy conference presentation (Peru, January 2011), subsequently published in The Cambridge IAU volume on Archaeoastronomy (ed. John Carlson, July 2011). With this, Aveni acknowledged his “inexcusable” (his word) error. But the damage had been done. Copycat scholars writing popular books on 2012, such as Restall & Solari, echoed Aveni’s authoritative dismissal of Grofe’s work with a consequent alleged “debunking” of my galactic alignment reconstruction. My own attempts to get a response and retraction from Restall & Solari met with silence --- another typical behavior of allegedly responsible scientists that I “denigrate.” Similar distortions or ignorance of FACTS of reconstruction and evidence that supports my work can be identified in critiques of David Stuart, John Carlson, David Freidel, Mark Van Stone, John Hoopes, Stanley Guenter, and others.
Now, as for additional new evidence that supports my reconstruction work: TRT Monument 6. The astronomical approach to this monument was launched in conversations I had with Michael Grofe in early 2009. I was able to mention our interesting findings in my 2009 book The 2012 Story. In April 2010 I presented the findings at the by-invitation-only academic SAA conference. In late 2010 my SAA piece on the astronomy of TRT Monument 6 was debated in an open discussion with scholars that was hosted by Dr. Ed Barnhart of The Maya Exploration Center. (The result is freely available at http://thecenterfor2012studies.com). I then presented the astronomy of TRT at The Institute of Maya Studies in January 2011, which is available in full on Youtube. Michael Grofe published his part of the findings in his IAU piece, in the IMS newsletter, and elsewhere forthcoming. The official response to all of this is: ignorance. Or, in David Stuart’s book, unsupported and opinionated thumbs-down dismissals (I also denigrate scientists and scholars who do not 1) accurately summarize what they are critiquing and 2) simply assert an authoritative opinion without provided any argument as to why. See my review of Stuart’s book: http://www.update2012.com/November2009.html). I’ve subsequently published articles detailing the incredibly irrational and under-handed strategies of professional scholars in various magazines, including Mindscape Vol. 5, Common Grounds, New Dawn Australia, and The Heretic Magazine. And of course at http://Update2012.com. My activities over the past two years are summarized here: http://alignment2012.com/Two-year-retrospective.html. I’m not asking scholars to entertain perennial philosophy & non-dual metaphysics here. I’m expecting them to be rational, professional, and ethical scholars. To assess the evidence and argument. Most of them are not, including many who I’ve respected since my early self-directed studies in the 1980s. I now see that they are largely unethical egotists threatened by my outsider status and the intellectual rigor and acumen I bring to the topic. I was treating 2012 as a legitimate topic of study 20 years ago; only as of 2010 do we have serious published treatments of 2012 by professional scholars, regarding how the ancient Maya thought about it. Guess what? Te consensus is starting to emerge that the Maya thought about 2012 as a time of renewal, a “transition to a new age”. That’s been my interpretation for 20 years, but you never would here that from a scholar until about two years ago. Meanwhile, they continue to dismiss my reconstruction work. That’s plagiarism topped with excoriation, an interesting mix. I do a have allies, although most of them do not want me to frame it as such, for fear of reprisals from their colleagues. Michael Grofe and Barb MacLeod, and Robert Sitler and Robert Benfer, are some of the open-minded scholars who aren’t reactive or ethically challenged.
This of course is a vexed question in the history of science, but ‘credible’ scholars still deny any knowledge of the precession (in Mediterranean and Near Eastern civilization) before Hipparchus. Anyway, the whole issue is a red flag in the context of academic politics. [and yet Grofe’s findings should lay that all to rest, at least in the Maya realm; MacLeod’s work on the 3-11 Pik formula is also supportive of Maya knowledge of precession: http://alignment2012.com/3-11PikFormula.html ]
Thank you, Ed, for your considerations
and questions. It’s an understandably distorted topic. All of my efforts have
been geared toward clarifying, defining, discussing caveats and nuances. And
responding clearly to critics. The failure lies demonstrably in the scholars
who are under-informed and reactionary and do not apply the principles of
rational processing that they are supposedly trained to. These are also the
loudest scholars who aggressively project misconceptions onto me and my work and control Wikipedia posts
(even to the point of factually incorrect slanderous comments by John Hoopes,
in the pages of Archaeoastronomy journal, green-lighted by editor John
This year, things may shift as I speak at the first Izapa Mesa Redonda Conference (http://alignment2012.com/IzapaJune2012.html) and also present with MacLeod and Grofe and David Sedat at The Great Return Conference in Copan (December). But after that no one will care about 2012 anyway, or my efforts to reconstruct what the ancient Maya thought about it. Best wishes,
John Major Jenkins